Certain muscle groups deserve extra consideration and attention when it comes to exercise for new mums.
It’s no surprise that your pelvic floor gets affected during pregnancy: a) due to the weight of your developing fetus placing pressure on these muscles, and also b) during labour and childbirth itself. Even if you delivered your baby via c-section, it still doesn’t give you a “get out of jail free card” when it comes to exercising and your pelvic floor, as some of you might think.
Roughly 1 in 3 postnatal women suffer with some of stress incontinence after birth. That’s where you wee or poo yourself when you laugh, cough, sneeze or lift a heavy load. Pregnant women who were induced and delivered their baby via c-section will still have gone through the stages of labour, and have effectively carried their developing baby for 9 months, so the pelvic floor can still be affected.
Exercising after birth is high on a lot of new mums’ agendas, but, it’s important that you do so with caution and care. I’d describe a postnatal woman’s exercise program as “working from the inside out”, starting with the pelvic floor muscles, which essentially form your foundation of support for all activity and exercise.
Your pelvic floor will have been stretched under the load of your growing baby for 9 months whilst you were pregnant, so it’s essential that every new mum puts her pelvic floor first. Returning to high-impact or intense exercise at this stage is not suitable, for a number of reasons.
Immediately after birth, your pelvic floor is compromised. This places you at a higher risk of not only incontinence, but also pelvic organ prolapse and back pain. These facts are even more true if you had:
2) a difficult delivery,
3) a large baby, or
4) if this is not your first baby.
The positive thing to bear in mind though is, there are plenty of things you can do to regain your pelvic floor after birth. All of the exercises you perform in my postnatal fitness and/or Pilates classes are suitable for you to do and have been designed with specific considerations towards your pelvic floor.
If your pelvic floor isn’t strong, chances are, you’ll wee yourself or feel a heavy/weak sensation in this area the first time you perform intense exercise, and ultimately, you’ll end up doing yourself some everlasting damage. This is not an attractive look, or indeed a sensible idea. Oh, and if you’re having to wear, or even contemplating wearing an incontinence pad to do exercise or perform tasks like lifting baby up, then ladies: “Houston, we have a problem!”.
Here’s a checklist that every new mum must pass first, before she even thinks about returning to high-impact exercise/perform intense tasks. Ready? Ok, so you need to make sure:
b) you’ve done a couple of months’ worth of work on pelvic stabilisation exercise eg Pilates to ensure your pelvic floor, core and abdominals are in a supportive state,
c) you’re returning to an activity you were doing prior to getting pregnant ie don’t go running if you’ve never run before,
d) you’ve invested in a good sports bra to support your breasts whilst you’re exercising, AND,
e) you’re wearing new, shiny, well-fitting trainers to support your joints, because often the biomechanics of your pelvis, knees and feet have changed to accommodate your baby bump during pregnancy.
And there you have it. My top tips for returning to exercise after birth, with specific consideration to your pelvic floor. If you have any questions relating to this issue, do get in touch. I’m more than happy to help, as you know.